Tag Archives: Timeline



Posted on February 4, 2015 by

Earth Sheltered Timeline: 2015

Probably not the schedule of how we would like it to go, but rather a condensed record of what happened each month.

2015-01-17_Signs&FenceJanuary: Even with the frozen ground, I tried moving dirt around to fill in around the main floor footings.  I made some progress, but also decided that time would be more efficiency spent on other things.  We also did other odd jobs like putting up some construction fencing.

February: I put the stairs in for the basement and attended “Fox Blocks” training.


March: We put up the steel skeleton for the central tower.

MichaelDigsApril: I began to gear up for spring by ordering the steel arches for the rest of the build.  We also excavated the footings for the bedroom wing so we could begin to erect those arches as soon as they were ready.  I also fixed my generator.

May: This was a busy month.  I started by making the first pair of concrete ribs.  Then we got to the very difficult job of clearing the shotcrete slag out of the basement. Once that was clear, we could lay the radiant pex pipe and pour the basement floor.

Pouring concrete over the radiant pex pipe

Pouring concrete over the radiant pex pipe

June: The most visible job was putting up Fox Blocks for the back of the garage, but there was also a lot of behind the scenes prep for other things.

July: Then we got cracking on Phases 1 and phase 2 of the steel frame for the bedroom.

August: Then



Posted on November 4, 2014 by

Earth Sheltered Timeline: 2014

January: I was busy working on my virtual build and updating estimates as I prepared to try again for 2014.VirtualBuild_14-3-15

February: Mostly, we worked on sourcing and budgeting for the build.  I also had a key meeting with the Shotcrete contractor.

March: Continued to work on the virtual build, sourcing, etc.

April: The biggest change was the decision to do my own electrical.  We also got going on the number crunching as we worked thru our mortgage paperwork.

IMG_20140529_150815_315May: Things really got going in May.  We were tired of waiting for the mortgage paperwork to finalize, so, once we were pretty confident that the loan would be approved, we just started out with our own money.  We got the final permits signed, sealed and delivered to the building inspector.  Then Sherri and I went and staked out the property.   The Excavation started with leveling the site.  Then we has to stake it out again (roughly) before the excavator came back to dig the hole for the basement.  There were more meetings with the building inspector resulting in some small changes to the design, and then Sherri and I staked out the basement.

IMG_2252_Basement_SitingJune: Construction started with forming the basement footings.  Then we leveled the forms and added rebar reinforcement.  Eventually, the first of many concrete trucks arrived and the footings were poured.  To help with construction, we purchased a trailer to carry supplies and rented a big steel shipping container to store everything in.  Near the end of June, we finally closed on our construction loan. By the end of the month, we were putting in steel track and door bucks.

July: July started with frustration as orders didn’t come in as expected.  Eventually, the steel studs did arrive, along with a number of other key tools, including my skid steer and scaffolding.  There were many days of steel studs, and more steel studs, until I eventually finished with the studs, strap and lath near the end of the month.

SteelStuds Panorama


IMG_20140822_135826_043_smallAugust: In August, we got busy adding the rebar to our steel studs.  Getting the rebar in and tied started to feel like it was never ending.  Once the rebar was all in, we did our electrical rough in and passed our first electrical inspection.  Then, suddenly SHOTCRETE!  That was a crazy couple days. After the shotcrete cured, it was time for waterproofing the basement.  Then we added all the drain tile, earth tubes, insulation and were able to back-fill around the basement.  That really changed the look of the site.  By the end of the month, we had started on the Septic System.

IMG_20140828_BackfilledSeptember: In September, we installed the earth tubes down the long trench before the excavators backfilled it.  September was also the month that I got “Over The Tire” (OTT) tracks for my skidsteer.  The building inspector told us that he was not satisfied with the testing done by our waterproofing manufacturer, it was pretty tense for a while, but in the end, he said we had to conduct our own waterproofing test.  Due to numerous delays, it took most of a month to get the septic field in and covered.  With the waterproofing passed and the septic trench finally covered, we could form the main floor footings.  My friend Aaron and I had to come back a separate day and prep the garage slab so we could pour the footings and garage slab before the end of the month.

Main floor footings in place


October: The next step was to drill the well in while it was still easy to run the plumbing to the mechanical room.  We also got going on the garage quonset hut.

November: Late in the year, with temperatures dropping, the ground freezing, etc. it was too late to start any big projects, so we did a lot of odd jobs, such as clean up.  One key task was grouting the quonset hut in place to keep it from blowing away in the winter winds.  The plan had been to use a tarp or the bundles of insulation to wall off the back of the Quonset hut so I could use the sheltered space as a shop and start on preparing the forms for the precast concrete ribs.  But it just felt too windy and I didn’t want to risk it.

December: I did go out to the site a couple times in December to do odd jobs, but nothing that turned into a December post.  We also traveled back to Canada for Christmas with the family.  I signed up for another semester working on my MBA…

will 2015 be the year we get this thing worked out?

Mid-April update


Posted on April 13, 2014 by


According to my Gantt chart, Monday (24 hours from now) was supposed to be the first day of construction. Actually, we are still waiting on the “appraisal” portion of our construction loan. So far, every delay has really just been an opportunity for us to save up a little more money and learn a little bit more, so I have relaxed about it. I also see that the prime interest rate has been dropping all month. Since we are not in a panic about building, we can relax with family over next weekend’s Easter holiday (although I do still plan to talk to my uncle about what sort of MAG welder I should buy).

On the other hand…  I don’t want to start too late.  Winter is coming around again and I need to be closed in properly or the work will be interrupted and the scheduled and costs will increase.

When we dropped off the appraisal paperwork (over a week ago now), I left feeling like I was on the edge of a cliff.  I would describe it as a cross between cold feet (pre-wedding jitters, which I did not actually experience with my own wedding) and that feeling people must get just before enlisting in the military.  I was about to bet a lot of money on my self…  On skills I am planning on developing… On an idea that I know is a little bit crazy.   On something that will require a tremendous amount of effort.  On a long term commitment.  On a change in lifestyle.  Pretty scary stuff.

Over the week, I have both calmed down and geared up.  I am ready to go.  We could hear news about the appraisal this week.  I could get rolling the day after Easter.  And that is why I am having trouble sleeping and I am typing this at 5:30 AM on Sunday morning.

Behind the Drywall Tour

Since we didn’t have anything major going on this weekend, I took a few hours with my wife and went on a “Behind the Drywall” tour.  The company conducting the tours is known for making very high-quality energy-efficient homes, oftne using “Earth Tubes” and other interesting systems.  The “Behind the Drywall” tours let you get a look at these systems before they get covered up.  This particular home had a green roof with interior roof drains that lead to a complex system of “rain gardens” on the sloping site. It had geothermal heating with radiant floors, an ERV connected to carefully designed duct work, several different types of insulation and a belt-and-suspenders approach to water proofing. I was hoping for some extra inspiration, maybe a good idea or two, and at the very least, a nice walk with my wife before things got crazy (we left the kids with my mother-in-law, so they were happy too).

A previous tour featured specially designed plastic gel packs suspended between the wooden wall studs as a thermal mass (sounds expensive compared to concrete construction).


I was reminded how many little bits are needed to build a wood framed home (especially one with an interesting layout and some steel beams).  So many little blocks were cut to make things fit and that made me feel better about my relatively simple build plan.  Understanding everything I was seeing also made me feel more confident about my own build.  Sherri also asked a couple great questions, so I know she is feeling pretty knowledgeable and confident also.  Sherri pointed out that our home would be much more exciting and efficient and tour worthy…

Eye Candy

That’s enough for now, on to the eye candy.